The announcement by prominent leaders from the North-Central geopolitical zone that they are exiting from the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) over the worsening insecurity in northern Nigeria has been long in coming, according to political analysts who spoke to BusinessDay on Thursday.
The analysts said it was high time the people of the North-Central defined their identity separate from the core North, in their own interest.
The North-Central leaders had on Wednesday announced their exit from ACF, which currently has as its chairman Audu Ogbeh, immediate-past minister of agriculture, who is from the North Central zone.
They also announced the formation of the North Central Peoples Forum, led by Gabriel Aduku, a former minister of state for health, as interim chairman, as a platform to fight insecurity and marginalisation.
The group told journalists in Abuja on Wednesday that in spite of the abundant mineral and human resources in the zone, the North-Central was bedevilled by vices like kidnapping, banditry and other forms of criminality.
Others listed as members include Jerry Useni, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory; Ibrahim Mantu, a former deputy Senate president; David Bamigboye, a former military administrator of Kwara State, and Olusola Akomode, a former deputy chief of staff to the president.
The list also included Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher of Leadership Newspaper; Ahmed Ibeto, a former Nigeria Ambassador to South Africa; Tajudeen Kareem, a media consultant; Stephen Lawani, a former deputy governor of Benue State, and Alfa Mohammed, among others.
Useni told journalists that the existence of similar groups in other parts of the country had given rise to group affinity and solidarity among the states in a particular geopolitical zone to canvass things of common interest.
He expressed confidence that the forum would unite the people of Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory in their quest to ensure that peace and stability were established and sustained within the zone.
He added that the forum would pursue rapid industrialisation across all nooks and crannies of the zone.
He said the group would pursue policies and process that would ensure that the massive solid mineral and agricultural endowments were adequately harnessed.
Reacting to the development, Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, analyst and professor of political science, said the move was long overdue, stressing that it was time the Middle Belt defined their identity.
“Yes, it is long overdue; it is high time they defined their identity, though they are not far from the core north,” Odion-Akhaine said.
“They have been emasculated for a very long time that defining their identity is very good on the long run. They struggle to find a balance in the country,” he said.
The professor further said that the North has never been one nor united, adding that the Middle Belt, North Central had been marginalised by some section of the North.
“The North has never been one. If you look at the ethnic composition of the North, the southern part tends to control,” Odion-Akhaine said.
“The Middle-Belt, North Central has always been oppressed and it is long over-due that they want to express their identity as a separate group of people; that is what they are doing,” he said.
Wale Ogunade, an analyst, said the North Central caused their misfortune, stressing that it was the decision to break away from ACF should have been taken long ago.
“They are the architects of their misfortune. We have constantly told them that they cannot achieve their aim in the North and they would not listen. Their leaders in the past knew why they worked with Awolowo and the South. If they have now realised this, good for them,” Ogunade said.
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